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Team Concept Takes Nipmuc LAX to New Heights
2011 was by far the best season Nipmuc lacrosse has seen, and head coach Sean Riley knows exactly what is to thank for the 15-3 regular season that landed the Warriors the sixth overall seed in the district tournament. "We really created a team atmosphere," he said. "Our philosophy is to be team driven and our captains and coaches helped us be just that. It led to a tremendous season and allowed us to meet a lot of our team and personal goals."
The captains of the squad were Josh Smith and JT Adee, who anchored the top midfield line for the second straight year. Sophomore Colin Jackson followed up on a 45-goal performance in his freshman season by leading the team in scoring and finishing among the top scorers in Central Mass.
Nipmuc was also strong on the defensive side of the ball, led by first-year goaltender Tyler McElreath. "He has been a stud since game one," Riley said of his sophomore between the pipes. "He has been great in net and runs the defense for us."
Also leading the defensive effort were long poles Joe Bergstrom and Sam Martin, both of whom are guys Riley says have stepped up their game throughout the course of the year.
The season that ends in the heat of late spring starts in the cold of late winter, and it was on a snow-covered field that Nipmuc announced its presence at the start of 2011. The Warriors had struggled in past years when playing from behind, but they were able to emerge with a season opening win over the Mountaineers in a 7-5 game that featured four lead changes and a two-goal deficit for Nipmuc.
The same tenacity was on display in perhaps the biggest win of the season, a victory at the end of last month against Grafton. Nipmuc had been eliminated by Grafton in the play-offs last season and had suffered a decisive 14-6 loss against them just one week before the two teams met on May 26. Down by as many as five goals, the Warriors stormed back to take the lead and ultimately won the game in overtime.
"Grafton only lost twice during the regular season, to St. John's of Shrewsbury and to us," said Riley. "Beating them was a great validation that we could compete against teams like that and beat them."
Nipmuc was also able to show its mettle in some of its losses, taking Shrewsbury to overtime before eventually falling. Riley admits good fortune was also in play, as increased conditioning led to an injury-free season and the same 10 starters on the field from the beginning of the season to the end. Even he was caught off guard by just how successful the 2011 season was.
"When I looked at the schedule in December, I thought we would be somewhere around 10th in Central Mass, and we ended up fifth," he said. "This year we really started to compete and that team atmosphere has allowed us to take on the bigger schools. This is the success we have been looking forward to, we want to build towards having this year in and year out."




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